As a young naturalist and photographer, I have always aspired to a career in natural history film-making. As far back as my memory extends, my two great passions have been the natural world, and the creation of something from scratch, whether writing stories or composing music. In time, I hope to merge these interests into one, to make the most exciting and challenging documentaries. In the meantime, I have huge amounts to learn, much to see, and hope to share this with all of you as I gain experience and insight into making films on the natural world.
Everyone finds a different way into doing what they love. In 2006, I was given the exciting chance to study English at Oxford University. There I learned invaluable skills about how to write, argue and persuade, though little, naturally, about the more practical skills required to shoot and edit a film. Leaving in 2009, I briefly took a running post in Bristol before leaving to write my own ideas for television. Every week, I wrote and sent scripts to the BBC’s Natural History Unit and to independent producers. My mistakes were valuable to me as I learned more and more about what it takes to turn floating ideas into solid, tangible documentaries. In my excited naivety I even wrote to Sir David Attenborough, who kindly sent me a courteous and very useful reply explaining how a commissioner thinks, and also how someone like myself might begin a career.
In the next six months, I knocked at many doors without success. Rather than trying to write my way into a career, I realised the importance of using moving images, not paper, to persuade people that rare and beautiful things live all around us and deserve more of our attention. I founded Mercury Films with a friend, took out a loan and bought equipment. I then travelled around Britain to try and film the rarest and most secretive of our forest animals. Having tracked these creatures for years, it was euphoric to finally capture brief moments in the lives of capercaillie, goshawk and wild boar. Every day I took my hide and equipment to my local wilderness, the Forest of Dean, then, by June, decamped to my room to assemble the trailer. By August, a producer in Bristol had accepted Phantoms of the Forest for development. This spring and summer I will be guiding ornithological tours in the south-west and writing blogs on my study of the natural world. For those who would love to get a rare insight into the very heart of forest wildlife, do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise stay tuned for news and updates - from my scheduled filming trip to the Gran Sabana in Venezuela, to bumbling with Boar in the Forest of Dean.
AS A WHISPERER
Join me as I track down and film rare birds in Britain. As a keen nest-finder, I will bring you live footage not only from the garden blue tits but also from the secretive lives of woodpeckers, owls and even rarer birds - the parrot-like hawfinch and the ferocious goshawk. I will tell you how to find owls in broad daylight, how to identify a woodpecker tree, and even how to track wild boar.
Given time, I hope to make films not only on wildlife itself, but also on how we, as fellow animals, relate to the world around us. Fifty years ago, people used to nail owls to barn doors to ward off evil. Today, we give them boxes and protection. What has changed, and how can we continue to promote the natural world as individuals?
Rather than giving updates on what I’m doing, my blogs will cover a wide range of issues: why do we watch wildlife, and how we can increase our appreciation of the natural world? I will also be writing articles on specific species and covering hot topics like raptor persecution, conservation, climate change and aspects of migration, nest-finding and breeding biology.
More info about Ben...
I will also be offering guided tours of the Forest of Dean with a special discount for members of Wildlife Whisperer. These come with a unique selling point – if you don’t see the species you want, you get your money back. With the Internet, everyone can be pointed towards some kind of wildlife encounter. But if you seek really intimate and responsible views of rare forest wildlife then my tours will not let you down. Target species will include goshawk, hawfinch, lesser-spotted woodpecker, willow tit, crossbill, nightjar, nightingale and wild boar.
Stay tuned to my birding website for details on birds, sites and much more. I will be taking requests from Whisperers across Britain about where they can find rare birds close to their homes. I can also offer tours in many wildlife-rich areas such as Speyside or Norfolk. For the latest diary entries, trip reports and more, visit www.ben-macdonald.co.uk.